By Nelson Agbajor
October 17, 1998 was a date the entire Idjerhe Kingdom in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State will not and can never forget in a hurry as over one thousand five hundred souls were perished, burnt beyond recognition following a pipeline explosion.
The fire disaster claimed the lives and cut short the destinies of many indigenes of the kingdom whose contributions if they were still alive may have changed the fortunes of the kingdom.
That faithful day was indeed a “Black Saturday” as family members, friends and others were left with no hope other than to bid their loved ones farewell.
Going down memory lane, Jesse was in total disarray and emotional quagmire as the oil pipeline explosion really affected not only the families of the victims, but also the entire Idjerhe Kingdom.
Social-economic activities were badly affected as it took the intervention of the international community to put out the fire.
Twenty-two years after the unfortunate incident, what has the government done to ameliorate the sufferings of the people, especially the families of those that lost their loved ones in the inferno?
Since then, successive governments seem to have abandoned the Kingdom with little or no meaningful development at the site of the incident.
Apart from building a monument where all the dead bodies were given a mass burial, has the government over these years thought of turning that area into a tourist centre in memory of the victims of the Jesse pipeline explosion?
Oil is supposed to be a source of blessing to any community that is fortunate to have it.
Idjerhe Kingdom is the second-largest kingdom in Urhobo land with its traditional administrative headquarters in Jesse, Ethiope West Local government Area of Delta State.
The Kingdom after the fire incident has tried to overcome all odds in ensuring that the people smile again, put the past behind them and fudge ahead.
They live in hope thinking that one day the government will come to their aid since it is an oil-producing community.
The revise is however the case of a land full of prospects, oil, agricultural produce since the Idjerhe people are mainly farmers.
The question is, what are the developments one can boldly say Idjerhe Kingdom has achieved since then?
Apart from the road networks that link one area to the other which probably with the intervention of the government through the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, DESOPESEC and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, what can the good people of the Kingdom boost of in terms of infrastructure and economic productivity?.and few political appointments on the part of those who are in politics.
The facts remains that since the Jesse Oil pipeline fire disaster of 1998, the government has done nothing considerably to develop the community and improve the economic life of the people.
The only Idjerhe Cottage Hospital has been abandoned by the same government as contractor handling the project has gone into oblivion.
That Cottage hospital along the Idjerhe Grammar School road if completed will be a source of health facility that will improve the health condition of the entire kingdom.
The only source of health facility in the Kingdom which was upgraded from a dispensary to a maternity is nothing to write home about.
A drive through the kingdom revealed the level of abandoned projects.
Residents of the area expressed total displeasure at the manner of underdevelopment of the Kingdom especially families of those that lost their loved ones during the fire disaster.
They have therefore called on the government to compensate the families and bring development to the kingdom.
As someone who believes that development is possible and as a journalist of high repute, the new king of Idjerhe Kingdom, HRM, Udurhie 1, Monday Obukohwo Whiskey, the Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom took the media team from ARISE NEWS, NEL XPRESS MAGAZINE and Inhispresence Live Media Network round the Kingdom to see the level of abandoned projects, facilities and also look for the way forward.
The monarch while briefing journalists at his palace shortly after the tour, said that his administration is ready to partner with organizations, individuals, local and foreign investors that will come and develop the Kingdom even as he promised to give a free land to build a degree-awarding institution and other infrastructures in the Kingdom.
HRM, Monday Whiskey while decrying the state of the health facilities at the Jesse Maternity, called on the government to come to their aid by completing the abandon Idjerhe Cottage Hospital in Jesse.
At the site of the 1998 Jesse Oil pipeline fire disaster, the Monarch appealed to the Federal and state governments to develop the area as it will be good for tourism which will attract more development.
In a related development, HRM, Udurhie 1, Monday Whiskey, the Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom has decried the rate of cult-related activities in the kingdom even as he said that anyone found guilty with evidence will face the law.
He appealed to parents to advise their children and wards to desist from cultism and be good ambassadors of themselves and the Idjerhe Kingdom.
The Monarch while reiterating his commitment towards the development of his kingdom, declared zero tolerance for all crime-related activities in the entire Idjerhe Kingdom.